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The Way We Were...Part Two

Story ID:7498
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Dillon Montana USA
Year:2011
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THE WAY WE WERE…Part Two
By Chuck Dishno

The Bly Seasons…
There was always something to do outside and the Bly kids had their own seasons. Of course there were the regular seasons, Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall. But we had our own seasons. They were rubber gun, marble, sling shot, kick-the-can, swimming, fishing, hunting sledding, ice skating, and just having fun season just to name a few.

It seems that at a certain time the rubber guns would come out and after we had used up all the available inner tubes for ammunition, which usually took a month or so, the rubber guns would be put away and the marbles would come out…

Rubber Gun Season…
The rubber gun season came, first in the Spring. I guess it was only natural to try to annihilate each other after a particular hard winter. As soon as the snow had gone the kids would be hard at work making new rubber guns. These were of various sizes from the 12 to 24 inches in length. There were also rifles that were more than 36 inches in length either single shot or multiple shot.

They were from of a piece ¾ inch pine with a clothespin taped or rubber banded to the handle. The ammunition was made of ¾ inch rings of red rubber inner tubes. This was long before tubeless tires and synthetic rubber. These rings were tied with a couple of knots in the center. They were then stretched from the front of the gun barrel to the clothespin on the handle.

To fire all one had to do was squeeze the pin and reload as fast as possible since a return shot was sure to be fired from your target. If you were lucky he only had a single shot but sometimes your target had a machine gun with 6 or more rubbers stretched to their breaking point. If this was the case he could pull a string and dislodge several or all of them at you. The rubber gun ammunition with knots in it really stung when they hit you and many bruises and welts appeared. How much ammunition you had depended on how many inner tubes you could collect over the winter and how much spent ammunition you could pick up after each volley. About a month or two into the rubber gun season it all came to an abrupt halt and out came the marbles.


Marble Season…
By the time rubber gun season endec, the ground had dried out and I can remember kids all over town drawing circles in the dirt, getting down on their knees and trying to take the other guy’s marbles.
This was a cutthroat game and what you knocked out of the circle, you kept. Some of the bigger guys would have a bag of marbles with a couple of hundred choice ones such as aggies, tiger-eye, cat’s eye or milkies. This was no game for sissies and new comers, who had just bought a bag of marbles, were fair game for the older shooters.

The big guys had strong thumbs (usually from milking cows) and could blow any other marbles out of the ring sometimes shattering them in the process.

There were rules such as knuckles up or knuckles down. The older guys could hit harder and more accurate if they used “knuckles-up”. On many occasions they would send a novice home crying after he had lost his bag of marbles. Occasionally some one would sneak in a “steelie” which was nothing but a shined up ball bearing. These were deadly as they could shatter a glass marble. Of course these weren’t allowed but I can remember loosing many marbles to these dastardly things. I was never that good of a shooter even though I had milked a few cows I never developed that needed “milker’s thumb”. ISSSS lost many marbles but I had fun anyway.


Sling Shot Season…
The sling shot season followed rubber gun and marble season because we usually had a supply of live rubber left over and the marbles made great ammunition.

All the boys would head for the willows to cut a nice forked willow and then tied on a couple of strips of red inner tube rubber. The pouch was made of soft leather and the best source for this was to cut it from the tongue of and old shoe. I can only imagine how many shoes were missing pieces of the tongue. I know I procured several from my dad’s shoes.

Of course we didn’t shoot each other with these deadly missiles but we got quite proficient at knocking off birds and frogs. Even the occasional ground squirrel fell under our sharp shooting. Sling shot season didn’t last too long as ammunition soon ran out. We kept the sling shot all summer though and always had one hanging from your back pocket for protection. You never knew whey you might stumble on a wild frog or a garter snake.

I remember trying to make a huge sling shot in my backyard. I found a huge forked willow about 5 inches in diameter and 6 feet long. I dug a posthole and sunk about 3 feet of the handle in the ground. I then tied long strips of red rubber to the fork and made a pouch of gunnysack material. On the first try I picked a round rock about 6 inches in diameter and after pulling the pouch back as far as I could let it fly. Boy, did it go! Mrs. Morris house was up the hill and about a half a block away. The rock sailed right over her house and into her back yard. Since I had anchored the shaft of the slingshot firmly in the ground and couldn’t turn it much, I only took one or two more shots before my dad came home and found my creation. He gave me heck for trying to kill Mrs. Morris.


Kick-The-Can Season…
I’m sure you all remember kick-the-can and how much fun it was to play. In Bly we usually played it in the warm summer evenings after supper.

The best lawns in Bly were at the school or the Forest Service and since we had enough of school, we usually opted for the Forest Service lawn. Another reason was that the head ranger’s sons, Herb and Howard lived there and they had a great lawn. We would gather there and play until it got too dark to see.

Most of the kids wore cut-off, white cords and it wasn’t long before they were a nice shade of green from sliding on the grass. One way we knew it was time to go home was when Sherman, one of the few black kids in Bly, played. When it got too dark all you could see was Sherman’s pants and t-shirt coming down the lawn. We laughed a lot about this and Sherman was a good kid and took the ribbing like a trouper.


Swimming Season…
As soon as the weather warmed up in the summer we would all get the urge to go swimming. Bly didn’t have a swimming pool and I don’t think too many of us had ever seen one. I seem to recall, there was an indoor pool in Klamath Falls that a few of us may to once or twice but that was no fun. Who in their right mind would want to pay to swim in stinky chloroprene pool

The place to swim in Bly was on the river or creeks. About nine miles west of Bly there was a place called Shady Rest. It was on the Sprague River and when I was a little boy they had a hamburger and hot dog stand there. On the weekends, lots of the town people would bring their kids there and picnic.


Shady Rest was on a nice gentle bend in the river and had a rope tied to a large cotton wood tree that leaned over the water. I can remember swinging out over the water on that rope and when it was at it’s highest arc letting go and cannon balling into the water. I don’t remember anyone ever getting hurt on that contraption… it was just good clean fun.

For some reason, when I was in my teens we seemed to switch swimming holes to the river at Sprague Canyon. Sprague Canyon was a recreational area that was developed by the CCC’s during the Depression.

Bly had a CCC camp South of town that was disbanded at the start of WWII. One of the projects for the CCC boys was to build bridges and tables in Sprague Canyon along with developing picnic areas, restrooms and roads. They even put in a well with a hand-operated pump that gave great drinking water. They did a beautiful job but after the camp closed up it was left to the Forest Service to maintain it.

Sprague Canyon was located about 5 miles East of Bly and during the summer there would be a steady line of kids either walking, bicycling or hitchhiking out to the park. Down the river a short ways the river slowed up and we would construct a rock and wood dam to make a deep swimming hole. The local sawmill would purposely cut a 12-foot long board that they had tapered to make a diving board. It was about 4 inches thick at one end and 2 inches at the other. We would place the large end over a rock and weight it down with other rocks. This made a nice springboard and gave a platform for many fancy (and not too fancy) dives. The board would have to be replaced each new season as it somehow disappeared during the winter. I could never figure out where it went – it was either washed down stream or ended up in someone’s heating stove. This was a great place to swim but it took a long time for the water to get warm enough so the season was fairly short. I remember kids diving in and coming out blue with cold. The salvation was a nice bunch of lava rocks on the hill beside the pool. As soon as you got out of the water you would head for your favorite rock and soak up some sun. We all turned a nice shade of brown as the summer wore on. Usually some mother would come out to pick up her kid and that was the signal for the rest of us to head home. If we had any luck we could all pile into her car and get a ride back. If not it was a long walk or bike ride.

The alternative to the swimming hole in Sprague Canyon was on Fishhole Creek. This was a short ways up in the hills and a great place to skinny-dip. Only boys were allowed, but there may have been a girl or two sneaking a peek while we were trying to be modest. Not that we had that much to be modest about since the water was really cold.

One funny incident occurred while skinny-dipping there. It happened when I rode my Cushman motor scooter out to the swimming hole. One of the boys, Joe, had a bad smoking habit and on this day, he had cigarettes but no matches. He was getting desperate to get his fag lit but no one would accommodate him. I finally felt sorry for him and told him we could light it with a spark from the scooter. I took the gas cap off and put a drop of gasoline on the end of his cigarette. I then took off the wire from the spark plug and told him to hold it next to the motor with the cigarette in between while I kicked the starting pedal. He put the cigarette between his lips, ready to take a drag when it lit. I then, gave it a huge kick to let the magneto create a spark, he must have jerked back because the spark jumped from the motor to his nose and gave him a terrific jolt. The fact that he was naked, wet and standing on the wet ground made it even stronger. Joe jumped around for a few seconds and still hadn’t got his cigarette lit. I tried to get him to repeat the process but he refused saying he thought he would just give up smoking. Needless to say, we all thought the whole thing was hilarious and talked about it for years. I don’t think Joe ever did quit smoking but I’m sure he learned a lot about electricity and proper grounding.

Another swimming hole was in Basil Hall’s hay field that we called the Suction Hole. This was an interesting pond that came from the river and had a small dirt dam at one end with a piece of culvert through the dam under the water. Every few minutes a whirlpool would occur and with a sucking sound would get faster and faster until it disappeared through the culvert. I never did figure just why it worked but it was fascinating and at times scary if you were in the pool and got too close to the whirlpool. This pool was also a good place to fish.


Fishing Season…
Fishing around Bly was always good. I don’t remember any huge fish but 10 to 14 inch rainbow or brown trout were plentiful. One didn’t have to go far to get these fish either. The Sprague River or Fishhole Creek were good places and a few of the mountain lakes would yield a nice mess of fish without too much effort.

The usual bait was worms or salmon eggs. Salmon eggs cost money but the worms were there for the digging. My Dad had a favorite place to dig for them and that was over the leach line to the septic tank. Pop swore that he could catch more fish with these worms because they tasted better to the fish. Just a few shovels full of dirt and you could fill a can with delectable bait. None of those fancy bait cans either; just an empty Prince Albert pipe tobacco tin would suffice. These tins were great because they were flat and would fit into your pocket and provided a sharp edge to cut your worm in half.

Another source of worms were night crawlers that were plentiful on the Forest Service or school lawns. The night before a fishing trip you would see kids crawling around on their hands and knees with a flashlight. Upon seeing a night crawler in the light you would have to be fast and grab it before it retracted into it’s hole. An enterprising kid could get a few extra dollars by catching and selling night crawlers to some of the men who were too busy or too lazy to dig their own. Prince Albert cans were always at a premium.

A Bly kids first fishing experience was under Second Bridge where Fishhole Creek flowed through the valley.

I should explain that Bly had 3 bridges going East out of town that were aptly named, First Bridge, Second Bridge and Third Bridge. Further out there were Fourth and Fifth Bridges but we didn’t pay much attention to them.

Second Bridge had a pool of water under it that was teeming with a trash fish called Chubs. Chubs were so plentiful that they would bite on anything, even a bare hook. It was a great place for a kid to learn how to hook and remove a fish. It wasn’t uncommon to catch 50 or more Chubs. They weren’t any good to eat as they were too full of bones but there was nothing better than a nice dinner of trout. I can still smell my Mom cooking those trout with fried potatoes. Our multitude of cats also had a treat on the entrails that my Dad would put out on a board in the back yard.


To be continued …